The main aim of every business establishment is to make profits for the total benefits of the owner(s). In Nigeria, especially, few fairly wealthy individuals establish business for philanthropic sake. Many wealthy individuals in advanced countries are known to establish businesses mainly for philanthropic purposes. Such generous altruism is rare in Nigeria!
The rare form of business enterprise for philanthropic purposes described above tells the story of Safeway Drilling, a Nigerian-based water engineering company, established in the year 2012. Owing to my decision to give back to Ibadan, my city of birth, I decided to take the uncharted route of empowering my people and society through the establishment of the water engineering company. The ideas were to equip the company with state-of-the-art drilling equipment, source for borehole drilling projects from interested individuals and government agencies, divide the profits made into two, using fifty percent of the profits to service the equipment and pay overhead costs and using the other fifty percent to provide water to communities where water is bitingly scarce.
Hundreds of millions of Naira have gone into acquiring plots of land, erecting buildings and structures for administrative and technical uses, acquiring state-of-the-art drilling equipment and putting up other logistics. Since 2012 when Safeway Drilling began its operations, the company has been drilling boreholes in many schools and communities, especially in the south-west, where access to clean water was a huge challenge, thereby reducing the incidence of water-related diseases and accompanying fatalities.
Safeway Drilling has delivered functional wells with ninety-five percent success rate to various institutions of higher learning such as the University College Hospital, Ibadan, The Polytechnic Ibadan, The University of Ibadan (PG Hostel) and other higher learning institutions in Oyo and Ogun States. The company has also delivered functional wells to governmental institutions like Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority and others. This is in addition to the provision of functional wells at SOS Children’s Villages in Ibadan and Ijebu-Ife as well as partnering other stakeholders to successfully deliver a number of free drinkable borehole water to some communities at Abeokuta in Ogun State.
Safeway Drilling’s expertise in borehole drilling attracted some stakeholders who collaborated with it as third parties to construct boreholes to several communities as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) water programmes. Also, the third-party engagement gave the company an opportunity to participate in the African Development Programme (AfDP) schemes to deliver safe, drinkable water to communities where clean water is a scarce substance.
Apart from its core business of providing free water to schools and communities, Safeway Drilling also provided technical training and education through Industrial Training Programme to a total number of 104 students in various engineering fields like Petroleum Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geology and many other science related courses from neighbouring educational institutions such as the University of Ibadan, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ilorin, The Polytechnic Ibadan, to mention a few.
Safeway Drilling has in its employment many youths who are graduates and non-graduates, having opportunities to learn to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour in the business of water drilling while reducing the growing unemployment rate in the country. A number of water and beverage bottling companies have benefitted from technical supports from Safeway Drilling, using local materials and expertise.
On a sad note, however, the influx of water drilling companies from Indians and Lebanese owned businesses, offering cheaper services and free auxiliary services, into Nigerian water drilling environment has threatened the operational gestures and business existence of Safeway Drilling. Business has become so unattractive for water drilling companies that many of them, like Safeway Drilling, have had to lay off their workers. In Safeway Drilling’s case, the business of social responsibility is facing an acute austere time due to lack of patronage as a result of the Indian’s water drilling companies offering cheaper services. Many of the employees have been laid off while the multimillion Naira water drilling equipment have become idle due to non usage. In actual fact, the company is considering putting the equipment up for sale so as to be able to salvage whatever fraction of the huge investments made to bring the water drilling business into existence.
Safeway Drilling can no longer provide free, clean boreholes to many other schools and communities suffering from water scarcity. Water-related diseases in those underprivileged schools and communities are threatening the existence of infants aged 1-5 who are most vulnerable to waterborne diseases.
As if the situations explained above are not worse enough, Safeway Drilling has ceased to offer technical supports to engineering students from higher institutions of learning. We cannot overemphasize the benefits of training engineering manpower to engineering professions and the country. What is the benefit of studying engineering courses in higher schools with theoretical orientation without practical engagements?
Safeway Drilling is a story of social responsibility going sour! The company was established for philanthropic purposes only; the investor behind the company does not make personal benefits out of the profits recorded through the business activities of the company. It is a company established to cater for water welfare of people in the society.
This is calling on government at all levels to come to the urgent aid of indigenous water drilling companies which are faced with the threat of extinction occasioned by the influx of unscrupulous foreigners whose only interest is to make monies here and repatriate them back to their home countries. They are here to make monies without giving back to our country in form of giving technical supports to higher institutions of learning, regular employments, training of engineering manpower and providing free boreholes to our schools and communities. We are calling on government to ensure that right policies and relevant infrastructure are put in place for the survival of indigenous water drilling companies.
It needs also be emphasized that despite the social responsibility activities of Safeway Drilling, the company still pays necessary taxes to the government. It’s however doubtful that the Indian water drilling companies operating in the state are remitting any tax to the state. For businesses to thrive and for government to get more revenues, it has compulsory duties to provide conducive environment for businesses to survive and thrive.
Oloye Abiola Iyiola is Mogaji of Anlamole Compound, Ibadan.